Ore. firefighters launch community paramedicine pilot program

The program will serve as a six-month trial of how firefighters can assist medical facilities with at-home patient care

By Jessica Floum
The Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Fire & Rescue will start a pilot program in which firefighters and paramedics make home visits to help chronically ill patients recently discharged from a local hospital avoid readmission.

The City Council unanimously adopted the program Wednesday. Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center will contract city firefighters, paramedics and nurses to check on at-risk patients it discharges to homes in Portland.

The program will serve as a six-month trial of how firefighters can assist medical facilities with patient care.

"We're excited about it," said Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of the fire bureau. "We think there is a role we can provide in addressing the community's health and well-being. We think it fits well with the skills the firefighters have."

The hospital will pay the city up to $50,000 over the course of six months to send trained paramedics and nurses from the fire bureau to check on hospital patients with chronic conditions like heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

The medical facility's case management team will refer patients to the fire bureau, which will ask patients to voluntarily enroll in the program, then set up an appointment within two weeks of them leaving the hospital.

The Mobile Healthcare Services Program will also give firefighters and paramedics the opportunity to check with vulnerable community members on the condition of their homes and other concerns.

The bureau hopes the proactive approach will reduce the number of unnecessary non-emergency calls to 911 and improve the use of Emergency Medical Services resources.

If the program is successful, the bureau may add positions to maintain both the program and its traditional fire services.

The city has 30 fire stations, 30 engine companies, one heavy rescue crew, a paramedic rescue crew and two squads dedicated to chemical, biological and explosive response.

"Portland Fire & Rescue is working on being important in all aspects, not just responding to 911," said Ken Burns, deputy chief of emergency medical services.

Copyright 2017 The Oregonian

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